Monday, March 31, 2014

URSP Student Bradley Strylowski Researches Canvas a Touchscreen Inspired Musical Instrument

In my final year of high school, I began teaching myself guitar and learning music in my free time, and soon began exploring musical applications for my smartphone. However, many of these disappointed me, as I found them either more difficult to control than actual instruments or offering too little control of the computer-generated audio. Last summer I participated in a research program at Louisiana State University, where I researched Mobile Music under Dr. Jesse Allison. We decided to build a non-skeuomorphic musical instrument for the touchscreen which we chose to call Pitch Canvas. By the end of the summer, we had completed a stable version of the interface, which with its hexagonal layout and gesture-based interaction, offers a means of producing music difficult to replicate even with traditional interfaces. Upon returning to George Mason at the end of the summer, I wanted to continue adding functionality to the interface, and applied for the URSP with the help of Dr. Jesse Guessford. I’m excited by the opportunity to explore novel ways of creating music, and also by the project’s further applications in fields such as music therapy, music education, and music visualization.

I plan to pursue a career in computational science research, and through this project I have learned much about the nature of interdisciplinary research. Also, I have gained skills in mobile development which will be useful later in my career, and have also learned about efficient programming methodology and processing multiple sources of information.

Most of my work is limited to programming in its various forms, whether encoding general algorithmic design, building the graphical representation of the interface, or translating between various environments. However, I am also growing acquainted with playing the instrument, and will be performing an improvisation later in the spring. Just this week, I discovered a way of playing the instrument that varies the volume of sustained notes, allowing the tracing of a melody by gently pulling the individual notes from the background.